Chronicling the legacy of Black artists in Los Angeles, Now Dig This! was part of the Pacific Standard Time Series that explored art in the City of Angels between 1945 and 1980.
The design began outside the gallery with large title and didactic panels made of fiber cement with silk-screened graphics. The humble panel material interspersed with thin red wood splines anticipated the engagingly textured and visceral works in the exhibit.
The bold positioning and scale of the didactic panels acknowledged the groundbreaking nature of the exhibit and unabashedly proclaimed the importance of the contribution of the featured Black artists — all of whom had achieved a world-class level portfolio, but many of whom had never been granted a show at a world-class venue.
Artworks in the show varied greatly from large griping sculptures made from the detritus of the Watts Unrest to an assemblage of human hair. The exhibition design strove to deliver a symbolically appropriate backdrop: a classic white-box gallery that the artists were historically denied access to.
The design also focused on the gallery floor to deliver a subsidiary structure to anchor the works. This was achieved with a quietening, neutral-colored, highly textured field of reusable carpet tile that slightly recalled hair and fur.
The fiber cement panels were employed once more within the exhibit to provide a background for video screens. The textured flooring ended at the threshold to the final gallery where large scale installation works demanded maximum flexibility for the artists’ own interpretation of the space.
Finally, the bulk of the attention for the exhibit design was paid to the positioning of the artworks to frame the museum visitor’s experience.
In collaboration with the curators, Chu ¬ Gooding carefully considered each plinth and pedestal relative to the perceived scale, viewing position, and opportunities for comparison and contrast.
Featured artists include John Altoon, Sister Karen Boccalero, Marie Johnson Calloway, George Clack, Dan Concholar, Houston Conwill, Alonzo Davis, Dale Brockman Davis, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Mark di Suvero, Melvin Edwards, Fred Eversley, Charles Gaines, David Hammons, Maren Hassinger, Suzanne Jackson, Virginia Jaramillo, Ulysses Jenkins, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Elizabeth Leigh-Taylor, Samella Lewis, Ron Miyashiro, Senga Nengudi, John Outterbridge, Joe Overstreet, William Pajaud, Noah Purifoy, John T. Riddle Jr., Betye Saar, Raymond Saunders, Ruth Waddy, Gordon Wagner, Charles White, Tyrus Wong, and Andrew Zermeño.